Steve Chapman, Sam Ftorek and Jason Saal were inducted as the 11th class of the ECHL Hall of Fame on Monday at a banquet presented by BFL CANADA and Sutton Special Risk at the Hilton Indianapolis Hotel and Suites in downtown Indianapolis.
Family and team were the common themes of the evening’s festivities.
Chapman, who had over 20 years of involvement in the ECHL with Birmingham, Mobile and Gwinnett, in addition to serving as Chairman of the ECHL Board of Governors for nine seasons, credited teamwork for his success.
“There is one concept in life that I believe in more than anything, and it’s helped me get to where I am going. It has carried me and continues to carry me when I am down. It has on occasion broken my heart and disappointed me. It has all too often inspired me, picked me up, kept me grounded and filled my heart with immense joy. And that is the concept of team. Everyone wants to be on a team. I think being part of a team is the greatest thing you’ll ever do in your life. Be a good teammate. It’s not about you, it’s about us. And no one finds success alone,” Chapman said.
“The honor is especially meaningful to me because of all the work that we have done together and all the things that we have accomplished together,” he added.
The ECHL’s all-time leader in games played, Ftorek grew up around hockey as his father Robbie – current head coach of the Norfolk Admirals – was still playing professional hockey himself when Sam was born.
“Everything I have basically through my life I’ve gotten from my family and hockey,” Ftorek said. I was introduced to the game at two weeks old when my dad was playing and I have not stopped since. Hockey and family were the only constants I had. Through all the moves, hockey was always there. I could look forward to new challenges, new teammates, new trips. When I needed an escape, hockey was a place I could go.”
Saal, who is just the fourth goaltender to earn enshrinement into the ECHL Hall of Fame, credits his parents, Bob and Lynne, for helping him along the way.
“Tonight would not have been possible without my parents,” he said. “They are the strongest people I know and they’ve taught me so much in life. They sacrificed so much time, money and love for me to able to play the game. Because of them I was able to live my dream.”
Now in his third season as Group VP, Brand, Community & Partnership Development for the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues, Chapman credits his time in the ECHL for giving him the opportunity to reach the NHL.
“I have literally grown up in this League, both personally and professionally,” he said. “This League has taught me so much and I am forever indebted to it. I have always said that if you can be successful in the ECHL, you can be successful anywhere. You have to put in the work but if you do it, and do it well, you can be successful anywhere.”
Much like he did growing up, Ftorek’s kids were able to enjoy watching him play, which is one of the big takeaways he has from his successful career.
“I had the amazing opportunity to play long enough for all my kids to watch me play,” he said. “I was lucky enough to have all the kids be at games, and hopefully enjoy them. They would come into the room afterwards and give all the boys high fives after a win and kind of change the focus if we were losing. I grew up and my family grew up doing that and that is what has kind of formed my kids’ lives.”
Following his playing career, Saal transitioned to a career in law enforcement, where he is able to put to use many of the lessons he learned through hockey.
“I can’t take any credit for my success without acknowledging all of my teammates that I played with,” he said. “I was taught at a young age that team always comes first. That was something I always tried to keep in my mind throughout my career. Lessons that I learned about being a good teammate helped to mold my career today in law enforcement.”
The three inductees join an elite company of 39 other individuals who have been enshrined in the ECHL Hall of Fame. To see the complete list of honored members, please visit ECHLHallOfFame.com.